If a tree overhangs your land, you are only entitled to cut and remove the offending branch or root up to the boundary of your land. Find out more about your rights and responsibilities, and when the City of Stirling can intervene.

What should I do if my neighbour's tree overhangs my property?

A tree normally belongs to the land on which it is growing, regardless of how it got there, and is the property of the owner of the land. It is a property owner's responsibility to inspect their trees regularly and ensure they are in a safe condition.

Where a branch or root encroaches upon your land, you are entitled to cut and remove the offending branch or root at any point up to the boundary of your land. You must not cut the branch or root on your neighbour's side of the boundary without his or her agreement. You are also not entitled to enter neighbouring land to do this.

In relation to the obstruction of sunlight, the occupier of the property is only entitled to light which falls vertically.   

Cutting back parts of trees not on your property

If a branch or root comes onto your side of the fence, you are allowed to:

  • Cut the branch back to the point it overhangs your property
  • Dig the root up and remove it up to the boundary of your land.

It is your responsibility to:

  • Not cut the branch or dig up the root on your neighbour's side without their agreement
  • Take care not to cause unnecessary damage to the tree and
  • Ensure that the tree is not left in a hazardous state.

You are not required to let your neighbour know you intend to cut things back from your property, however it is a good idea to let them know there is a problem and what you are going to do.

Disposal of parts of trees not on your property

Any root, branch, flower or fruit that you cut back still belongs to the tree's owner and should be returned to your neighbour.

Be careful about how they are returned. You are responsible for any damage or littering that might happen.

You should let your neighbour know what you are planning to do. If the tree's owner agrees, you may dispose of the cuttings yourself. A convenient time for both parties may be during the City's green waste collection period.

Payment for damages caused by a neighbour's tree

Repairing damage caused by a neighbour's tree can be costly.

If you need to have repairs done or have to get a specialist in to remove the roots or branches you should:

  1. Write a letter to your neighbour setting out what the damage is.
  2. Give them copies of quotes for getting the work done.
  3. Ask them to pay to fix the problem so it does not happen again.

You should keep a copy of the letter. Once your neighbour knows of the problem, they have a responsibility to rectify it.

If you cannot reach an agreement, you may have to apply for a court order forcing your neighbour to have the branches or roots removed. However, legal action against neighbours can lead to bad relationships that often cannot be repaired.

Where possible, think about negotiating an agreement or going to a dispute resolution service, instead of taking court action.

Can the City of Stirling help resolve my dispute?

Disputes concerning trees on private property are a civil issue and the City of Stirling may only become involved once it has been demonstrated that the tree presents a hazard and that the property owner has failed to take appropriate action.

The Local Government Act gives the City the power to take action against trees on any land that endangers a person or thing on adjoining land. Generally this is used in situations where a tree presents an acute hazard such as a potential to cause injury or damage through the shedding of branches.

The complainant should carry out the procedures listed below before the City of Stirling will consider intervening:

  1. Approach the owner of the tree and attempt to arrive at an amicable solution to the matter.
  2. If that is not possible, a written request should be sent to the owner requesting the required work to be carried out. Ensure you keep a copy of your letter.
  3. If that does not resolve the issue, get a written report from a qualified arboricultural consultant to determine if the tree is structurally sound or potentially dangerous. Supply the owner of the tree with a copy of this report with a further request to carry out the required work.
  4. The City may become involved if the following three conditions are met:
    a. The consultant finds the tree to be unsound and warranting pruning or removal
    b. The tree owner does not carry out their obligation to remove or prune the tree
    c. The complainant cannot resolve the issue himself or herself.
  5. If the City finds that the tree endangers any person or thing on adjoining land, and is required to be made safe, it may issue a notice under Section 3.25 of the Local Government Act 1995 to set in motion certain procedures to achieve compliance.

Please contact the City on (08) 9205 8555 should the above procedures fail to prompt action from your neighbour.

More information and contacts

For more information, a pamphlet published by Legal Aid WA is available from the City, or you could also the Legal Aid website . You may wish to attach a copy of this brochure to the letter to your neighbour.

Should you wish to seek further advice you may contact either:

  • The Legal Aid WA information line on 1300 650 579

If it is necessary to undertake mediation with your neighbour, you may wish to contact the Citizens' Advice Bureau on (08) 9221 5711, who facilitate mediation sessions for the general public.

Pruning or Removing Trees on Private Property Information Sheet